Georg Wilsberg

Created by Jürgen Kehrer

As popular and influential as the series of novels by German author Jürgen Kehrer about Münster private eye GEORG WILSBERG may be (the author consciously tried to avoid most of the tropes of American detective fiction, presenting an unassuming, decidedly German small town private eye who was neither heroic nor particularly tough), Wilsberg’s biggest impact just has to the long-running German television series that is not only seen all over the world, but is still running after almost twenty years!

After a so-so 1995 pilot with Joachim Król playing Wilsberg, a second attempt was made five years later, again called Wilsberg, featuring Leonard Lansink in the lead role, and that one stuck. Oh boy, did it stick!

A rumpled, disbarred lawyer, middle-aged Wilsberg runs a small shop that sells antiquarian books, while taking on an occasional gig as a private investigator. He’s not getting rich, though — in fact, he’s usually broke, and lives in the back of the store. And since he doesn’t own a car, he has to frequently to borrow one from his friends, or ride his bicycle — a running gag, since Münster is considered the “bicycle capital” of Germany — to visit clients.

And that’s part of the charm. Georg is a conniver and a mooch, a charmer and a bit of a rogue, a decent man with a knack for making bad choices, a sort of cross between Jim Rockford and Angel Martin.

In fact, the whole show seems like Rockford through the looking glass at times.

Although sleepy, provincial Münster is a far cry from Rockford’s trendy Malibu or Hollywood, there’s a vibe here that’s undeniable.

Although he’s not as handsome as James Garner, Leonard Lansink possesses the same hapless, rough-and-tumble charm and Everyman persona that Garner did, and seems to have a similar amount of bad luck and good friends. Like nervous Manni Höch, soft touch Münster city councillor and Georg’s best friend, who helps out at the store and and whose car Georg frequently “borrows,” much to its detriment. Maybe that’s why he eventually moves away, to be replaced by new best friend Ekki Talkötter, another cautious government worker. As a tax inspector and accountant (and a hardcore mystery reader), he’s easy pickings and a good source for Georg, with access to people’s taxes. And, of course, he’s got a car. Then there’s Alex Holtkamp, Wilsberg’s niece and goddaughter, a young law student and eventual attorney, who recalls Rockford’s Beth Davenport. There’s no romance here, but she’s awful handy when hapless “Uncle Georg” invariably gets arrested for burglary or rape or murder or whatever.

And then there are Georg’s police “friends,” whom he’s frequently at odds with. Attractive and age-appropriate (for Georg) Anna Springer is the head of the Münster homicide squad, and his only real friend on the force, playing pretty much the same role as Rockford’s frequently exasperated pal Dennis. The difference is that Anna has feelings for Georg, despite the fact he sees her as more of a friend than anything, and that he’s constantly interfering in her investigations. And finally there’s Overbeck, Anna’s assistant inspector, who’s not really a friend at all. No fan of Georg, he fancies himself some kind of supercop, but his naked ambition, vanity, paranoia and habit of leaping to (wrong) conclusions does his career no favours, and his dislike and distrust of Georg often lead to trouble (and plenty of false arrests).

Good thing Anna’s around.

The books, I’ve been told (thanks, Manfred), are far more complex, with Wilsberg suffering through sometimes major personal changes from book to book. The necessary compromises made, and the low-key approach taken on the television show to appeal to a broader audience, have obviously proven successful, and haven’t hurt the sales of the novels (nineteen and counting) much either. Kehrer has even appeared in cameos on the television show several times.

Which is good news for author Jürgen Kehrer. Born in Essen in the Ruhr region, he worked as a journalist and editor, before writing his first novel, Und die Toten lässt man ruhen (1990), which introduced Georg, and was an early example of what became known as the “Lokalkrimi” school of German crime fiction; a school that was less hard-boiled, and decidedly toned-down, invariably set in “rural and unspectacular areas of Germany,” relying more on character than action. Georg doesn’t even carry a gun.

As far as I know, none of the books have been translated into English, which is disappointing, because recently MHz in the States has been broadcasting the television movies, and while they won’t make you forget Rockford, it has an easy-going charm that will definitely remind you of it.

In a good way…


  • Und die Toten lässt man ruhen (1990)
  • In alter Freundschaft (1991)
  • Gottesgemüse (1992)
  • Kein Fall für Wilsberg (1993)
  • Wilsberg und die Wiedertäufer (1994)
  • Schuss und Gegenschuss (1995)
  • Bären und Bullen (1996)
  • Das Kappenstein Projekt (1997)
  • Das Schapdetten-Virus (1997)
  • Irgendwo da draußen (1998)
  • Der Minister und das Mädchen (1998)
  • Wilsberg und die Schlossvandalen (2000)
  • Wilsberg isst vietnamesisch (2001)
  • Wilsberg und der tote Professor (2002)
  • Wilsberg und die Malerin (2003)
  • Blutmond – Wilsberg trifft Pia Petry (2005; with Petra Würth) | Buy this book |Kindle it!
    Wilsberg teams up with Würth’s Hamburg private investigator Pia Petry.
  • Wilsberg und die dritte Generation (2006)
  • Todeszauber – Wilsberg trifft Pia Petry (2007; with Petra Würth)
    Petry and Wilsberg team up again.
  • Wilsberg – ein bisschen Mord muss sein (2015)


    (1995, ZDF)
    Original airdate: February 20, 1995
    90 minutes
    Starring Joachim Król as GEORG WILSBERG
    and Heinrich Schafmeister as Manni
    Also starring Katja Studt, Hans Martin Stier, Karin Anselm, René Toussaint
  • WILSBERG (1998-2019, ZDF)
    68 90-minute episodes (and counting)
    Starring Leonard Lansink as GEORG WILSBERG
    Heinrich Schafmeister as Manni Höch
    Oliver Korittke as Ekki Talkötter
    Rita Russek as Kommissarin Anna Springer
    Roland Jankowsky as Overbeck
    Ina Paule Klink as Alex Holtkamp
    and Marie Zielcke as Tanja

    • “In alter Freundschaft” (May 25, 1998)
    • “Wilsberg und die Tote im See” (November 22, 1999)
    • “Wilsberg und der Mord ohne Leiche” (February 3, 2001)
    • “Wilsberg und der Schuss im Morgengrauen” (October 20, 2001
    • “Wilsberg und der letzte Anruf” (April 13, 2002)
    • “Wilsberg und der Tote im Beichtstuhl” (November 23, 2002)
    • “Wilsberg und der stumme Zeuge” (May 3, 2003)
    • “Letzter Ausweg Mord” (October 18, 2003)
    • “Der Minister und das Mädchen” (February 14, 2004
    • “Tod einer Hostess” (May 1, 2004)
    • “Tödliche Freundschaft” (November 6, 2004)
    • “Schuld und Sünde” (March 5, 2005)
    • “Todesengel” (May 14, 2005)
    • “Ausgegraben” (November 19, 2005)
    • “Callgirls” (February 4, 2006)
    • “Falsches Spiel” (March 25, 2006)
    • “Tod auf Rezept” (December 2, 2006)
    • “Miss-Wahl” (February 17, 2007)
    • “Die Wiedertäufer” (April 7, 2007)
    • “Unter Anklage” (May 27, 2007)
    • “Filmriss” (January 12, 2008)
    • “Royal Flush” (March 8, 2008)
    • “Interne Affären” (April 26, 2008)
    • “Das Jubiläum” (December 27, 2008)
    • “Der Mann am Fenster” (April 11, 2009)
    • “Doktorspiele” (April 25, 2009)
    • “Oh du tödliche…” (December 16, 2009)
    • “Gefahr im Verzug” (March 20, 2010)
    • “Bullenball” (November 25, 2010)
    • “Frischfleisch” (April 8, 2011)
    • “Tote Hose” (June 11, 2011)
    • “Im Namen der Rosi” (September 28, 2011)
    • “Aus Mangel an Beweisen” (January 25, 2012)
    • “Die Bielefeld-Verschwörung” (February 18, 2012)
    • “Halbstark” (April 7, 2012)
    • “Die Entführung” (January 26, 2013)
    • “Treuetest” (March 6, 2013)
    • “Gegen den Strom” (August 28, 2013)
    • “Hengstparade” (October 16, 2013)
    • “Nackt im Netz” (January 11, 2014)
    • “Mundtot” (March 1, 2014)
    • “Das Geld der Anderen” (March 22, 2014)
    • “Fingerfood” (December 8, 2014)
    • “90-60-90” (December 17, 2014)
    • “Kein Weg zurück” (Janary 3, 2015)
    • “Russisches Roulette” (February 14, 2015)
    • “Bauch, Beine, Po” (April 11, 2015)
    • “48 Stunden” (October 10, 2015)
    • “Bittere Pillen” (November 28, 2015)
    • “Tod im Supermarkt” (January 2, 2016)
    • “Mord und Beton” (April 16, 2016)
    • “In Treu und Glauben” (December 17, 2016)
    • “Der Betreuer” (January 14, 2017)
    • “Die fünfte Gewalt” (February 4, 2017)
    • “Straße der Tränen” (November 11, 2017)
    • “MünsterLeaks” (December 2, 2017)
    • “Alle Jahre wieder” (December 23, 2017)
    • “Morderney” (January 6, 2018)
    • “Prognose Mord” (March 3, 2018)
    • “Die Nadel im Müllhaufen” (Setember 8, 2018)
    • “Mörderische Rendite” (November 3, 2018)
    • “Gottes Werk und Satans Kohle” (January 12, 2019)
    • “Minus 196°” (March 2, 2019)
    • “Ins Gesicht geschrieben”
    • “Bielefeld 23”
    • “Der Leibwächter”
    • “Vaterfreuden”
    • “Wellenbrecher”
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. A special thanks to Manfred for the lead.

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